2016 Toyota Highlander Overview
Pros & Cons
- Strong optional V6
- Composed ride and handling
- Ample small-item storage
- Top-notch cabin materials
- Above-average predicted reliability
- Four-cylinder's unimpressive fuel economy
Notable for 2016
- Towing package now standard on V6 Highlanders
Toyota Highlander Rankings and Research
The 2016 Toyota Highlander ranking is based on its score within the Midsize SUVs category. Currently the Toyota Highlander has a score of 8.8 out of 10 which is based on our evaluation of 29 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.
2016 Toyota Highlander Pictures
2016 Toyota Highlander Review
Analysis of professional reviews and data reveals that critics are impressed with the Highlander's spacious, upscale cabin. It has a powerful, available V6 engine that gets nearly the same fuel economy as the base four-cylinder engine, and the Highlander’s ride is smooth. It also has above-average projected reliability for the class.
With a starting price around $30,000, the Highlander is more expensive than some of its class rivals. If you choose a higher trim and add many of the optional features, the total price can get into the mid-$40,000 range. That higher price tag, however, returns a lot of value compared with rivals, thanks to the model’s quality materials and the trim’s long list of standard features.
- "We rank the Highlander as a Best Buy because it excels at delivering the traits that SUV-buying families want most. First and foremost, it offers excellent passenger/cargo room and versatility. Thoughtful small-items storage areas abound, and the cargo space behind the 3rd-row seat is among the best in the class. Add in Highlander's decent maneuverability for the size, comfortable ride, and nicely finished interior, and you have a standout midsize SUV." -- Consumer Guide
- "After last year's thorough redesign, the 2015 Toyota Highlander stays true to its no-nonsense roots. It remains a top choice in the three-row family crossover class." -- Edmunds (2015)
- "All in all, the Highlander's combination of safety, comfort, space, attractive styling and predictable driving dynamics makes it a solid candidate for the family on the go." --Autoblog (2014)
The Highlander offers a lot when it comes to technology, including a standard Entune infotainment system. It has multiple smartphone connectivity options, a 6.1-inch touch screen, and it is considered one of the most user-friendly systems in the class.
Perhaps one of the biggest lifesavers available in the Highlander – for parents, that is – is the rear-seat entertainment system, which includes a Blu-ray player so your kids can watch “Frozen” during road trips instead of begging you to stop at every restaurant and rest stop along the way.
Speaking of things that are handy with a car full of people, the Highlander is available with Driver Easy Speak, which projects the driver's voice through the speakers to people in the rear rows, ensuring that you never have to shout to make yourself heard.
- "A horizontal theme pervades, drawing your eyes from either end to the centralized multimedia screen. There, you'll find easy-to-use controls, including knobs for the main radio functions, and for the climate controls below them." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)
- "My favorite new feature on the Highlander is Driver Easy Speak. When it's engaged, the driver's voice is projected through the speakers, allowing him or her to scream at the kids all the way in the back when they start putting food in each other's hair. It saves strain on one's vocal cords and really gets the message across to the little ones, especially if the vehicle is equipped with the optional JBL speakers." -- Autoblog (2014)
- "Still, the Toyota interface sometimes requires multiple touches to get the system to do what you want; once you adjust, it's easy to toggle through the screens for tasks like setting the navigation system. There are also plenty of old-fashioned, easy-to-use knobs for things like temperature control." -- Automobile Magazine (2014)
Upscale Cabin Feel
The Highlander provides a posh interior that you and your family will enjoy. The stylish design and high-quality materials would be right at home in some luxury vehicles, and the quiet cabin manages to dampen nearly all outside noise.
- "In our interior evaluation, the 2015 Highlander gets high marks for dashboard design and materials quality, especially compared to the previous model. Toyota clearly sweated the details this time around, and the result is a palpably premium environment, even in the lower trim levels. The gap between Toyota and Lexus has narrowed considerably here, which is good, because the Highlander actually costs as much as a Lexus if you want all the fixings." -- AutoTrader (2015)
- "Inside, the cabin is fitted with appealing materials in available two-tone color combinations, and many surfaces are padded." -- Consumer Guide (2014)
- "Toyota has also improved the Highlander's noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) so that road and wind noise are minimal. It's a very pleasant, near-luxury experience. Honestly, if I was blindfolded and told I was behind the wheel of a Lexus crossover, I'd probably believe it." -- Autoblog (2014)
Eight is Enough
The Highlander seats eight, which is tied for the highest seating capacity in the class, making it a great carpool vehicle. The first two rows have plenty of room and are easy to climb into. The third row can fit adults if they're willing to squeeze in, but it's probably best left for kids. However, thanks to the sliding second-row seats, it is easy to get into the third row.
- "If you're expecting big-time space in the way back, we should warn you that adults will still find it cramped relative to some rivals. Kids will be fine, though, and the three-across seating bolsters the Highlander's credentials as a minivan substitute." --Edmunds (2015)
- "In back, the second-row seats slide forward farther than before, making third-row access appreciably easier. It's still pretty cramped back there for adults, but the new 3-across bench means that you can carry an extra kid if necessary." -- AutoTrader (2015)
- "Headroom and legroom are ample in the 1st and 2nd rows, the latter aided by seats that slide fore and aft about five inches. Getting in or out of either is easy due to a relatively low step-in height." -- Consumer Guide (2014)
Plenty of Cargo Space
The Highlander provides ample small-item storage throughout the cabin thanks to a large glove box and center console. It also has excellent cargo capacity, offering up to 83.7 cubic feet of space with the second and third rows folded down, which is a higher maximum capacity than nearly every midsize competitor, save for the Honda Pilot and the Highlander’s sibling SUV, the 4Runner. In short, the Highlander has enough space to fit weekend luggage, some large furniture items, and anything in between. Take note that you'll have considerably less room with the rear seats up. There’s only 13.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, which is a bit less than average.
- "On the cargo-carrying front, the available height-adjustable power liftgate with memory height settings is a boon in garages with low ceilings." -- Edmunds (2015)
- "Storage is terrific, with a good-size glovebox, a huge two-tiered console box, two cupholders and a forward console bin (the latter with USB/aux/12-volt jacks), a drop-down left-side bin, and a handy (and unusual) mid-level dash tray." -- Consumer Guide(2014)
- "At least the third row can easily fold down in a 60/40 split and there's a one-touch power liftgate with selectable memory height settings, a super feature for people of shorter stature." -- Autoblog (2014)
- "Fifty-eight juice boxes can fit into the center console of the 2014 Toyota Highlander. If you filled every seat of the eight-passenger SUV, everyone could have seven drinks, with a couple left over." -- Automobile Magazine (2014)
V6 Engine the Way to Go
The 2016 Toyota Highlander base model comes with a four-cylinder engine that provides enough power for the average commute. Still, the available V6 engine – which comes standard on all except the base model – has quicker acceleration, making it the better choice for highway passing and merging.
In some vehicles, choosing a larger engine comes back to bite you when it's time to fill the gas tank, but you may not even notice the difference in the Highlander. The four-cylinder engine gets an estimated 20 mpg in the city and 25 mpg in highway situations. The larger V6 delivers an almost identical 19/25 mpg rating. That's not to say that you'll be thrilled with these ratings overall, because the Highlander is only middle-of-the-pack when it comes to fuel economy.
- "Toyota says up to 90 percent of Highlander models will leave the lot with the 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine, and it's easy to see why. The V6 offers considerably better acceleration than the 185-horsepower 4-cylinder, and only gives up a little in fuel economy." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)
- "Under the hood, the base 4-cylinder engine delivers acceptable thrust, but since its fuel economy is barely better than that of the V6, we don't really see the point. Most Highlander buyers opt for the six, and we can see why: It's one of the best V6s in the world, pumping out serious passing power when you need it." -- AutoTrader (2015)
- "Most 2015 Toyota Highlander buyers end up with the tried-and-true V6 engine, and it's easy to see why: You get almost the same fuel economy as with the base four-cylinder, along with an extra 85 hp and some of the smoothest acceleration in any crossover at this price. The six-speed automatic transmission works well and provides quick downshifts." -- Edmunds (2015)
You can't help but appreciate the Highlander's velvety ride, which easily smooths over all but the harshest road imperfections. It remains composed around turns, has sharp steering, and handles better than you'd expect for a vehicle of its size. Still, don't expect the Highlander to match the athleticism of class rivals like the Mazda CX-9.
- "Of course, the main purpose of the Highlander is to take bumps and freeway expansion joints in stride, and it excels in this regard, providing near-Lexus levels of refinement." -- AutoTrader (2015)
- "The meaty three-spoke steering wheel is precise, and if you drive quickly around a tight turn, the Highlander remains secure, with a decent amount of grip. As long as you're not looking for handling as athletic as the Mazda CX-9's, you'll likely find the Highlander sharp enough." -- Edmunds (2015)
- "The Highlander maintains its composure even during the occasional aggressive turn or maneuver, and it conveys a buttoned-down sense of security at all times." --Automobile Magazine (2014)
- "I didn't have any complaints about the Highlander's handling, which is surprisingly good for a larger crossover." -- Autoblog (2014)
Options, Trims, and Pricing
The Highlander is available in five trims ranging from the base LE all the way up to the high-end Limited Platinum. No matter which trim you choose, the Highlander has plenty to offer. However, you will pay a bit more compared to other midsize SUVs. The Highlander LE has a starting price of around $30,000, which makes it one of the more expensive base models in the class, but not by much in many cases. The Ford Edge, for example, starts around $29,000. The same is true on the high end trims, as few competitors will cost you more than the Highlander Limited Platinum, which starts around $43,500. The savings, however, are minimal in most instances. The Platinum Nissan Pathfinder, for example, will save you less than $1,000.
If you want the Highlander's four-cylinder engine, you'll have to go with the base LE trim because it's the only model that doesn't come standard with the V6. However, you can still upgrade to the V6 for an extra $1,100.
If you live in an area that's prone to inclement weather and want the added stability of all-wheel drive, know that it's available on any Highlander trim, but it will add anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 to your bottom line.
The XLE starts around $37,000 and is the lowest trim to offer second-row captain's chairs instead of a bench seat, which is available for just under $300. It's also the lowest trim to offer packages featuring the rear-seat entertainment system, which run anywhere from $1,800 to $2,100.
Buyers interested in the Highlander's more advanced driver assistance features like blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and rear parking sensors will need to go with at least the Limited trim, which starts at nearly $41,000. Many of the features are standard, and you can get the full range of driver assistance features by adding the Driver Technology package for $1,400.
Of course, if you're interested in all of the above, your best bet is to go with the Limited Platinum trim, which includes nearly everything discussed here.
Safety and Reliability Summary
The Highlander scores well in crash test ratings. It's a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and earns a rating of Good in all five test categories, the highest ranking possible. It also earned a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In addition to scoring well on crash tests, the Highlander has a bevy of driver assistance features, although most are only offered on higher trims. The only standard feature is a rearview camera.
Among the available features, adaptive cruise control will make road trips easier by automatically maintaining your following distance from the car in front of you. There's also lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring, which can keep you safely in your lane.
The Highlander has above-average predicted reliability for the class, and Toyota covers the 2016 Highlander with a three-year/36,000-mile warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
Other SUVs to Consider
The Honda Pilot is one of the few midsize SUVs to offer more cargo space than the Highlander. The Pilot also matches the Highlander by offering three rows of seats. That lets the Pilot seat up to eight people (the top Pilot Elite trim only seats seven because it has second-row captain's chairs). The front seats are extremely comfortable, and the second and third rows provide enough room for adults without shorting them on leg- or headroom. The Pilot has several driver assistance features designed to be a safety net if your concentration lapses on the highway or if you don't see an approaching vehicle when you're backing out of a parking space. It also gets ample power from its engine, ensuring that you're never holding up traffic.
The Chevrolet Traverse is a 3-row crossover that's adept at many things, though it isn't the sportiest vehicle out there. Its engine delivers adequate power, and it is surprisingly maneuverable for such a large vehicle. The cabin, especially in higher trims, feels pretty luxurious thanks to the top-notch materials. Like the Highlander, the Traverse seats up to eight. Second row captain's chairs are available that drop capacity to seven. The first two rows have plenty of room for anyone, and the third row can easily accommodate children. The Traverse has one of the highest overall cargo capacities among 3-row crossover SUVs. It also has a long list of standard and available features, including many driver assistance options that will relieve some of the stress of driving in rush hour traffic.
Details: 2016 Toyota Highlander
The 2016 Toyota Highlander seats up to eight and comes standard with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. A 3.5-liter V6 and all-wheel drive are available. There are four trims: LE, LE Plus, XLE, and Limited. The 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is reviewed separately. The Toyota Highlander was fully redesigned for the 2014 model year and has seen few changes since. As a result, this overview uses applicable research and reviews from the 2014 through 2016 model years.
Standard features in the 2016 Toyota Highlander include a rearview camera, Bluetooth, a USB port, and Toyota's Entune infotainment system with a 6.1-inch touch screen. Options include a panoramic moonroof, navigation, a JBL audio system, an upgraded Entune system with an 8-inch touch screen, a rear-seat Blu-ray video system, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear parking sensors, and rear cross traffic alert. The Highlander is also available with a feature called Driver Easy Speak, which projects the driver's voice over the speakers to people in the rear rows.
Research Prices: 2016 Toyota Highlander
Over 75,000 car shoppers have purchased a car through the U.S. News Best Price Program. Our pricing beats the national average 86% of the time with shoppers receiving average savings of $3,279 off MSRP across vehicles. See what others paid for the Toyota Highlander and get upfront pricing to make sure you don't overpay. Learn More »